Kawasaki Ninja H2R: Inside One of the World’s Fastest Motorcycles
Once in a great while a motorcycle comes along that raises the performance bar to a whole new level. The Honda CB750 did just that in the 1969, and a few years later the original Kawasaki H2 Mach IV came along and kicked things up another notch. A 748cc, three-cylinder, two-stroke engine powered the 1972 H2 Mach IV. The peaky power plant produced a massive (for the time) 74 horsepower and earned the H2 the foreboding nickname “the widowmaker.”
Fast-forward 43 years, and Kawasaki has done it again with the absolutely ludicrous Ninja H2 street bike and H2R track weapon. Determined to once again stake its claim at the top of the super bike totem pole, Kawasaki unveiled the two supercharged machines last year. The numbers associated with the H2R in particular are like nothing we’ve ever seen before in the motorcycle world. The 998cc supercharged inline four cylinder belts out around 326 horsepower. In comparison, the previous king of the liter-bike hill, the BMW S 1000 RR, puts out 199 horsepower from the same size engine (minus supercharging, of course). To put that kind of power production in perspective, if the 2015 Dodge Viper put out the same horsepower per liter as the H2R, its 8.4 liter V10 would manage 2,738 ponies. Kind of makes the Viper’s actual output of 645 horsepower seem unimpressive, doesn’t it?
The H2R is relatively porky for a liter class bike at 476 pounds, but with over 300 horsepower on tap the bike’s power to weight ratio is virtually unrivaled. Each of the supercharged horses is only pushing 1.5 pounds of motorcycle (not including the rider). The previously mentioned Viper’s 645 horses are each hauling 5.3 pounds, barely better than the 1972 H2’s six pounds per horsepower!
Even when compared with the today’s ultra-fast hyper cars the H2R is in a class by itself. The Bugatti Veyron Super Sport, with its 16 cylinders, four turbos, and 1,200 horsepower, only manages 3.4 pounds per horsepower.
That brings us to the subject of price. The H2R is extremely expensive by motorcycle standards at $53,000, but that pales in comparison to the Bugatti’s $2.4 million price tag. And it still seems like a bargain stacked against the Viper’s $87,095 base MSRP. Of course, you don’t get a windshield. Or seatbelts. Or a trunk. Or a large metal frame enveloping you in the event that you crash.
But how does that H2R’s real world performance stack up to the previously mentioned supercars? While information on the H2R’s top speed is a bit sketchy, reports indicate that the bike is capable of at least 220 miles per hour. That does fall short of the Veyron Super Sport’s well-documented 267 mile per hour terminal velocity, but bests the Viper’s 206 mile per hour limit. Credit the cars’ vastly better aerodynamics for the close contest.
Acceleration is also closer than the power-to-weight ratios would suggest. The big Dodge hits 60 miles per hour in the low three-second range and runs the quarter-mile in the mid-11s. The massively more expensive Bugatti ups the ante with a 0-60 time of 2.5 seconds and a 9.6 second quarter. While verified acceleration numbers for the H2R are hard to come by, the bike seems to run neck and neck with Bugatti to 60 before pulling away for a mid-8 second quarter mile. In a head to head half mile race the H2R managed a 194.5 mile per hour trap speed to the Bugatti’s 180. Not bad for $53,000.
Of course, there’s a caveat. The Dodge Viper, Bugatti Veyron Super Sport, and BMW S 1000 RR are all street legal, and the H2R is not. The street legal version, the H2, is massively detuned compared to the R with “just” 220 or so horsepower. It’s also heavier at 523 pounds. However, there’s no way to access the levels of performance these machines are capable of on public roads anyway. Street legal or not, the Ninja H2R has taken power and performance to whole new extreme.